18/10/2017

New Deadline Set To Restore Power-Sharing In NI

Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said political parties have until the end of October to reach an agreement to restore power-sharing in NI.

He said progress had been made between the DUP and Sinn Fein, however they have failed to reach an agreement on culture and language issues.

Mr Brokenshire said: "A breakthrough has not been reached. Whilst if I had given evidence to this committee last week, I might have indicated some momentum, some more positive progress, that momentum stalled at the end of last week.

"The prospects do not look positive at this time."

Meanwhile, Alliance Party Deputy Leader, Stephen Farry, has expressed frustration at a political standoff between the DUP and Sinn Féin, and called upon the Governments to urgently consider fresh approaches to finding agreement over the short window ahead, before Mr Brokenshire has to pass a budget for the region.

He said: "Notwithstanding stated progress on a range of other issues, it seems that at no stage over the past nine months have the DUP and Sinn Féin addressed the core issues of dispute between them.
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"It beggars belief that the DUP and Sinn Féin are put this matter of Irish language and culture on such a pedestal that they have lost a sense of proportion and perspective on the wider need to provide good governance to Northern Ireland, to reform out public services, invest in our economy, and to have a proper Brexit plan.

"Alliance has a preferred way forward on these language and cultural issues. But the costs and implications of either having a standalone Irish Language Act or not having one are miniscule compared to what else is at stake

"Any return to Direct Rule would constitute a massive reversal in our political process. Given the nature of Northern Ireland, we need power-sharing and local accountability in our governance."

Ulster Unionist Party Leader Robin Swann MLA has said Mr Brokenshire has a responsibility to look at other options that would allow other parties to get on with the job if the DUP and Sinn Fein are unable to form an Executive.

He said: "It is a scandal that the country is still being held to ransom by ideological demands. The people of Northern Ireland deserve better. We are becoming tired of hearing hollow soundbites. The public need to know whether there really is prospect of an Executive being formed by the DUP and Sinn Fein or if hopes are falsely being raised.

"If the two big parties cannot get their act together then the Secretary of State has a responsibility to look at other options to allow other parties to get on with the job."

(CD)

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